Featured Objects

Panel from a woman’s skirt 绣花缎裙

This skirt’s pleats feature rows of colorfully embroidered insects—including butterflies, cicadas, and crickets.

Woman’s jacket

Cosmological beliefs widespread in Qing-Dynasty China associated the color red with happiness, summer, and the prime of life.

Vest 坎肩

In hot, humid summer months, men and women sometimes wore bamboo vests or jackets next to their skin.

Pair of woman’s shoes 三寸金莲

Despite many stylistic similarities between fashionable Han and Manchu dress during the late Qing, footwear remained a principal differentiating marker between upper-class women of these two ethnicities.

Tobacco pouch with crane and shou (long life) character 寿字仙鹤刺绣烟袋

Many traditional Chinese and Manchu garments included no pockets, so men and women carried fans, eyeglasses, chopsticks, incense, money, tobacco, and other small personal objects in decorative bags.

Woman’s riding jacket 女式琵琶襟马褂

As illustrated by this woman’s jacket, wide sleeves and elaborately decorated hems and borders became extremely fashionable in nineteenth-century China.

China: Through the Lens of John Thomson

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Scottish photographer and travel writer John Thomson took four journeys across China. His photographs capture scenes and people from all walks of life—ministers, high officials, wealthy traders, street vendors, brides, boat women, monks, and soldiers—providing a lasting record of nineteenth-century China’s landscapes, architecture, communities, and customs. This exhibition presented a stunning selection of Thomson’s photographs displayed alongside contemporaneous pieces from The Textile Museum’s collection of Qing-Dynasty textiles and accessories. 

This exhibition and related programming were made possible through major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Coby Foundation, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional support is provided by the George Washington University Confucius Institute and the Council for International Cooperation, Washington D.C.